Metheny and Mehldau accompanied each other for the first three tunes, all from Metheny/Mehldau. "Unrequited" was like a second meeting between the two. They’d already encountered each other somewhere else; now, it was about testing out their mutual interests. It began sparsely with Metheny threading his ideas to Mehldau, who thickened the musical mixture with thoughtfully inserted flowing melodic lines. "Annie’s Bittersweet Cakes" moved quickly with motives by Mehldau that seemed to travel over pastoral hills and back to its original spot. Metheny added stinging, bluesy licks where every note was crisp and audible. In the slower "Make Peace", Metheny (making one of several guitar changes) brought through his Midwestern consciousness as Mehldau used minor sonorities that were both eerie and melancholy.
Without the loss of a beat, Grenadier and Ballard were on stage and into "A Night Away" (from Quartet.) For this, Pat strapped on his hollow body electric guitar. The tune had a tropical feel, aided visually by broad-leaved plants on stage and lights changing colors from blue-green algae to Bloody Mary red. Metheny’s unnamed "new" blues was the most boppish tune of the night. Grenadier, whose intonation was flawless, gave a most poetic solo as Ballard brushed hushed beneath him. As two-thirds of Mehldau’s regular trio, theirs is one of the most solid, telepathic bass-drum relationships in jazz today (think drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen with pianist Jason Moran). After two more tunes, Metheny and Mehldau were left alone for "The Sound of Water" where Metheny created synthesized sounds of splendor on the Pikasso, an acoustic custom-made 42-string guitar. Mehldau was the patient watchman who reflexively added to the beauty of the piece.
After over an hour and a half, the hall was saturated with sound and a handful of folks were drenched and left. But two encore pieces were performed with Grenadier and Ballard that brought the rest of the audience to its feet. It was quite a performance and an excellent precursor of the next night’s performance at Carnegie Hall.
Alex Ross recently wrote in The New Yorker about the blurring of boundaries between pop and classical music:
"Such a fusion is probably as undesirable as it is unattainable: genre distinctions are part of what makes music comprehensible in the first place. Nonetheless, all music exists on a continuum, and it’s thrilling when a programmer decides to follow a common thread from one genre to another."
Metheny and Mehldau are riding that continuum now, something that both are excited to do beyond these recordings and tour. Their shared affinities for all types of music are brought forth in and through their respective past and present collaborations. Think of two liquids one room temperature and the other with ice - pouring into the same glass. Their individual composition is affected by the other’s presence that’s chemistry. And currently, these two have a formula that’s stable.
PAT METHENY AND BRAD MEHLDAU/BARDAVON 1869 OPERA HOUSE